Land transactions in Kerala will be Aadhaar-based in future. The proposed Aadhaar-based Unique Thandaper System, though not mandatory now, is taking the State in that direction.
In a notification issued in this regard, the Department of Revenue has clarified that the thandaper -- or the revenue record of a property -- would be linked with Aadhaar only with the explicit consent of the respective land owner. The notification has also included the proforma in which the consent has to be submitted.
The State's move to link Aadhaar with thandaper, a first in the country, is also intended to implement the Supreme Court-set guidelines on Aadhaar.
The Revenue Department will issue a separate notification specifying the guidelines for those not willing to provide Aadhaar as Know Your Customer (KYC) document. A special drive is likely to be initiated to link Aadhaar with thandaper through village officers, Akshaya Kendras and Revenue Department portal.
The initiatives aim at the smooth functioning of the revenue portal and issuing Aadhaar-based land-documentation cards to property owners. Those not interested in linking Aadhaar with land documents will be allowed to maintain the status quo.
The department has been using Revenue Land Information System (ReLIS), a web-based application, for online mutation and management of land records.
The Revenue Department is of the belief that those unwilling to link Aadhaar with land documents will be less, and hence will be easy to monitor their holdings and transactions, and to find irregularities, if any.
Applicable to collective ownership
With an individual allotting a single thandaper number for all his land holdings, finding the ownership of land across the State will be made easier. The single thandaper number will allow the department to find the land holdings of a person, even if his/her properties are scattered across the State.
Currently, an individual could own up to 7.5 acres, and a family could hold up to 15 acres. Excess land, if any, in the possession or family, could be taken over as additional land, and distributed to the landless under the Land Reforms Act.
In case of collective ownership of a single property, the Aadhaar numbers of all the owners will have to be linked with the thandaper.
The plan document mentioned that it is possible to provide a single thandaper number to collective owners, companies, trusts, societies and flats. The formula used to identify land to provide a single thandaper number will be based on the percentage of total area.
However, there are differences regarding its effectiveness within the revenue department itself. The department has earlier estimated that about 60 per cent of land in the State are under collective ownership. It has been argued that since the existing documents have not recorded the holding of each individual in case of collective ownerships, it will be difficult to find the dimension of the land that will belong to each person.
Unique number different from Aadhaar
Under the unique thandaper regime, parcels of land a person owns in the State will be provided a 13-digit unique thandaper number. Currently, most villages are providing single- to five-digit numbers, and if an individual has land in more than one village, s/he will have different thandapers.
Revenue Department officials said the plan is not to add the 12-digit Aadhaar number as it is to thandaper. Instead, the planned system will automatically generate a new number once the Aadhaar details are linked to a specially created module in ReLIS.
The department clarified that the system will not save the Aadhaar details of the land owner(s). The details will be used to identify the owner(s) using KYC.
Previous govt spiked the plan
Incidentally, E Chandrasekharan, the Revenue Minister in the previous Pinarayi government, had repeatedly announced that the unique thandaper numbering system would be implemented. Though he had set the process in motion, it was stalled after it ran into technical and legal issues and controversies.
A 2020 government order, instructing the linkage of land details with owner's Aadhaar card, was also not implemented. Since the Aadhaar card contains the personal details of the holder, the Central government's approval is necessary for the State prior to linking it with any of its schemes.
The first Pinarayi government stalled the unique tandaper plan considering the controversies over the Centre's Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the upcoming Assembly election. K Rajan, the Minister for Revenue in the second Pinarayi (present) government, also mooted the unique tandaper plan.
Kerala received the Centre's nod to link land records with revenue on August 23, after the State Revenue Department pointed out that it could help in improved administration and providing better services to the people, besides addressing the loss of revenue from the exchequer. The current notification was issued based on this development.
Two crore thandapers
It has been estimated that the State currently has at least two crore thandapers. Among these, there are several ghost thandapers (those remaining with the department even after the respective owner had sold the property) also.
The department expressed hope that the unique thandaper will help in finding and bringing multiple properties of an individual (irrespective of its location in the State) under a single number, besides helping in providing better services and maintenance of records.
The success of unique thandaper, however, will be based on the efficacy of the error-free, one-time verification of digitalised land records and the planned digital land survey.
Revenue officials admitted that implementing the notification will be a herculean task.
The State has been linking all the names in Kerala's 91 lakh ration cards with Aadhaar for the past five years, and the task has been 90 per cent complete. Linking land documents with the Aadhaar of land owners, however, will be as easy as in the case of ration cards.